The pre-Cataclysm lull has made my beloved WoW start to drag a little of late. I’ve done pretty much done everything there is to do. So I have set myself a challenge to experience every starter zone in WoW, starting with the strange (and slightly smelly) Alliance races that as a Horde-fanatic are completely unfamiliar to me. Having been dismayed by the hypocrisy and flimsy morals displayed by Humans, I was really hoping for something more impressive from my next character: a Night Elf.
Enter Lunei, the Night Elf Rogue. It seems every WoW player has to roll a Night Elf at least once, so it’s impressive I lasted all these years without doing so (I also resisted the temptation to make her a hunter!). Let me start by saying that I’m not normally a fan of Elvish characters in my fictional worlds. Whilst undoubtedly more interesting than Humans, I have a bit of an aversion to the pretty goody-two-shoes types. Hence I tried to make Lunei as interesting as possible in my head, an outcast rogue who had grown dissatisfied with Elven society, with a worn-out sense of morality from countless millennia of myriad experiences. Of course this attempt to make a slightly grittier persona for my character was kind of ruined when I logged in for the first time to find her bouncing up and down like a playboy bunny. /sigh.
Despite this my first impressions stepping out into the forested world of Shadowglen were quite positive. It is very pretty and atmospheric, finding just the right balance of a magical wilderness vibe without going over the top. I mean it *is* a bit heavy on the purple but hey, it seems to a be theme so let’s run with it. Moreover the music is absolutely lovely, with a mythical sound that is both moving and slightly haunting. The scenery and music combined beautifully, so that my initial sensations of exploring around the glen were, dare I say it, enchanting.
The initial quests however seemed slightly odd. I mean, I’m a (bouncy) Night Elf, a race who are sworn to defend their magical forests and the creatures that live within. My first quest? To kill boars and kittens. According to my quest-giver Conservator Ilthalaine, who doesn’t seem interested in ‘conserving’ anything at all, this is a necessary evil to balance out the wildlife in the area. This seems odd to me, and wasn’t quite what I was expecting. But off I go and soon my Elvish blade is stained with the blood of the local wildlife. Upon completing these murderous quests I am told that I have “proved my dedication to nature”. I nod at him uncomfortably and start to wonder what DEHTA would have to say about all this. I then receive my first quest reward, which appears to be a set of Hot-Pants. Animal slaughter and scantily-clad Elves? I was worried that this was about to turn into a rerun of Goldshire.
Fortunately, the quests began to improve quite a lot from that point on. I was pleased to meet a dryad who was the spitting image of her counterpart in Warcraft 3, and she sent me off to fight some corrupted Grellkin who were messing things up in our magical wonderland. This seemed a lot more like what I was looking for, even if ‘Grellkin’ sounded painfully like something out of Lord of the Rings.
As I began to spread out throughout Shadowglen the quests became very fun and engaging. An effort to help a Night Elf who had been poisoned by a giant spider led to a nicely expanding questline of moving through the zone, collecting ingredients and so forth. I really liked the open feel of the zone as it gave questing a more organic (no pun intended) feel, wandering seamlessly from quest to quest rather than a boring linear progression. Although I should note this process was enhanced by the new feature of having quest objectives displayed clearly on the map, as otherwise I could easily have become lost!
I was also extremely pleased to see an early quest that discussed a fair bit of Night Elf background and how the aftermath of the Battle of Mt Hyjal had impacted upon their society. Immediate bonus points for incorporating lore into the equation! These lore tidbits actually continue as a series of breadcrumb quests, with you learning more and more about your people as you level up. You are exposed to key lore plot points such as Ysera and the Emerald Dream as early as level 5. It’s a brilliant touch and one which I wish was present in more starting areas.
However, two things did start to mar the very enjoyable experience I was having. The first was the obnoxious presence of the Night Elf Mohawk. Seriously Blizzard, not only was this one of the dumbest marketing campaign ever, it really crapped on my levelling experience. There were several idiot Elves spamming each other with ‘Mohawk Grenades’ and it got very annoying very quickly. Please please please take this rubbish out of my game!
The second thing was more of an irritating trend I was noticing about the Night Elves I was encountering. Despite their very cool mythical feel, it seems that the majority of the Night Elf population are, in fact, complete idiots. It starts back in the introduction sequence, with the whole fact that the Night Elves built Teldrassil in the first place. Let’s review here: you used to have a World Tree blessed by 3 extremely powerful Dragon Aspects. Then after blowing up the tree as a means to save the world, the Night Elves suddenly make a new tree which was not blessed by anyone, had none of the same cool magical properties, and indeed Malfurion – the guy who knows everything about World Trees – told them that growing a new tree would be a massive mistake. Yeah, not the brightest thing to do there and it’s really no surprise that I spent most of my time as a Night Elf killing all of the creatures who have been corrupted by this amazingly short-sighted mistake.
But the stupidity is everywhere. Remember that guy I helped who had been bitten by a spider? Well, he got bitten because his favourite thing to do is take walks in the area that is infested with giant poisonous spiders. Apparently it never occurred to him to avoid that one particular area in an otherwise very safe forest. Sadly, the stupidity even extended to my own character, against my wishes. You see, I finally left Shadowglen and set out on a mission to the nearby town of Dolanaar. On the way I encountered a particularly unfriendly-looking Satyr.
Now my first instinct was to kill this daemonic monstrosity, until I saw the little quest-giver exclamation mark above his head. Apparently this guy with giant horns and claws needs my help and my character is all too happy to oblige. The fact that Satyrs are actually daemonically-corrupted Elves and an ancient enemy of my people doesn’t seem to bother my character at all. This struck me as ridiculous. Whilst admittedly a player new to Warcraft might not know the details of Satyr ancestry, the character would know! However a later quest, where I am understandably reprimanded for helping the evil-doer, implies that actually my Night Elf knows absolutely nothing of Satyrs or indeed of her people’s past. Which might be forgivable, if Night Elves weren’t thousands of years old and can actually remember their history from personal experience.
Stupidity aside however, I was having a great time. I killed a rare corrupted Furblog, which dropped some armour that actually covered up my legs . Then I discovered Dolanaar, which is a beautiful little town. I really love the twisting natural architecture of the Night Elves. I also had a bit of a loregasm when an Ancient Protector stomped past me, its giant wooden limbs creaking with each stride. I happily carried on questing around Dolanaar for a couple of hours, really enjoying the atmosphere of the place, before finally logging off feeling contented.
Final Thoughts: There were a number of little annoyances throughout the zone as I mentioned, but on the whole I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the Night Elf beginner experience. There are a number of fun, involving quests with some nice lore thrown in, all set in an evocative magical forest-world. I fully expect to log back in and explore more of the areas around Teldrassil in the future – just as long as there aren’t any mohawks around!
Final Score: 7/10.